Preview: Chelsea v Manchester City

With our poor form, and a host of difficulties for the manager, a trip to Stamford Bridge is hardly the ideal fixture and few will be backing us to overturn recent history and get a result. Can a case be made for City to overturn expectations? Let’s have a go…

First the bad news round-up. Adebayor is out thanks to a ridiculous four match ban for an offence similar to one committed by Robert Huth in the same game that didn’t warrant a free-kick. Having played for 120 minutes on Wednesday, Bellamy’s knees are unlikely to take the strain of another 90 minutes.

Tevez may be back, but is unlikely to be 100% after a long-haul flight and a lack of proper training. Elsewhere up front, Santa Cruz still looks way short of full fitness, and Ireland is equally short of form. Having played extra-time with ten men, most of the team will be feeling the effects of three games in seven days. Oh, and everyone seems to be losing faith in the manager.

So where’s the cause for optimism? Chelsea also had a tough game in mid-week, with a trip to Italy thrown in. Important players will be missing in the form of Cech and Cole.

If Zhirkov is out, then they’ll be forced to field a makeshift left-back, who either Wright-Phillips or Johnson should be encouraged to attack. Further absentees could be Essien, Bosingwa, Alex and Belletti limiting their ability to rotate from Wednesday night.

All the attention will be on Wayne Bridge and it’s to be hoped he puts in a strong performance against John Terry and his former employers. Across the defence, we’re in good form and a trio of Lescott, Kompany and Richards shouldn’t be bullied by Drogba and co.

Zabaleta’s recent improvement could see him get a game, either at right-back or in midfield. Nigel de Jong and Adam Johnson should return to give some freshness to the side that lost on Wednesday. Presumably Gareth Barry will play and it’s to be hoped he has one of his more energetic games.

With Adebayor missing, Tevez is likely to be asked to play as a lone striker. His strength at holding off opponents has seem him surprisingly effective in this role, but he’ll need plenty of support against Terry and Carvalho.

The main concern is who else will play in midfield, and provide attacking support. Ireland will be fortunate to retain a starting place given his lack of form, yet there is no-one else who can play the role behind the striker. A big performance from the Irishman could make all the difference.

Wright-Phillips will hope to get a chance on the right-flank and his industry combined with the chance to show his old employers what he’s capable of, could also be valuable.

Shay Given:

“We know it’s going to be a tough game. Chelsea have great qualities all over the pitch and we will have to be on top of our game.

“But we have already beaten them at home this season. I know it’s a different story going to Stamford Bridge, but I think it’s better to play in a big game after a huge disappointment.

“If we can bring the points back, it would give everyone a huge lift.”

Early kick-offs can lead to a subdued atmosphere, which would suit the tactician Mancini. In addition, the ‘big four’ can be vulnerable after a champions league fixture – look what happened to United at Everton last week.

Mancini will relish going up against his old foe Ancelotti, particularly after Stoke, and it will be interesting to see how he fares. Every neutral complained after last Sunday’s stalemate with Liverpool, but don’t be surprised to see Mancini employ similar tactics here.

If we keep it tight, restrict the opposition to a single shot and snatch a goal through Tevez, then City fans will be more than happy this time round.

The key things will be to avoid defending deep for long periods, getting forward to support Tevez and retaining possession. If we do that and maintain our defensive discipline, then maybe it’ll be a happier trip than most expect.

Blue Days line-up: Given, Richards, Bridge, Kompany, Lescott, de Jong, Barry, Ireland, Johnson, Wright-Phillips, Tevez.

Prediction: 1-0 to City.

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